They provide similar services, so now they’ll be held to the same standards. A new draft proposal from the European Union may soon extend security rules that currently apply exclusively to telecom operators like Vodafone, Orange, and Deutsche Telekom to web services like Facebook-owned Whatsapp, Skype, and Apple’s FaceTime. As first reported by Reuters, the European Commission plans to reveal reforms to its 15-year-old set of telecom regulations this coming week. The new rules will require web companies that also allow users to make calls and send messages to “ensure the security and integrity of their services, including reporting breaches to authorities and having contingency plans and service continuity strategies.”
It’s a victory for telecom companies, which have pointed out for years that so-called “over the top players” like Google, Microsoft, and Facebook do not face the same stringent regulations as more traditional communication firms, despite supplying extremely similar services. These new proposed changes may also help to even the score between European providers and largely U.S.-based internet companies, which has long been a contentious subject within the European Union.
That said, not all web services will be required to uphold the exact same security obligations, as some of these services “do not exercise control over the transmission of their services over telecom networks,” Reuters reports.
“Providers of such services should thus ensure a level of security commensurate with the degree of risk posed to the security of the communications services they provide,” the draft document reads. “Therefore, whenever it is justified by the actual assessment of the security risks involved, the security requirements … should be lighter.” However, should there be a security breach that significantly impacts their service, apps and companies will have to alert national authorities “without undue delay.”
After being unveiled this week, the new proposal will still require the approval of the European Parliament and EU member states, which means changes to the legislation are still likely.